Agency on Record

Agency on Record
Mike Colombo and Jason Ocker from the digital agency Maark discuss creativity and technology in a commercial world. Except it gets a lot messier than that. A weekly podcast from the agency’s headquarters in Boston.

Earning and Learning: Continuing Education at Organizations
Aug 10 • 44 min
We started a cross-education program at Maark, with subscriptions to Treehouse for employees to expand their skillsets and to MasterClass to stoke their personal curiosity. Continuing education is a no-brainer, but how well do these platforms work for it?…
Finally, Movie Theaters Are Being Put Out of Their Misery
Jul 30 • 47 min
Sure, we all love movie theaters. They’re nostalgic. And a chance to leave our screens at home for a screen somewhere else. But now that they’re closed, do we need them anymore? Or is VOD to our 4K TVs a more profitable model for movie studios and a good…
VFX is a Lot Like Building Software: Impossible
Jul 20 • 36 min
Technicolor is bankrupt, and a big part of its business was visual effects. Their client list is impressive, as is their work, and yet, the margins for VFX are thinner than old pants. Is it the software conundrum? That clients don’t understand the true…
The Busting of Blockbuster Was Not Netflix’s Fault: Lessons in Digital Transformation
Jul 13 • 40 min
Blockbuster Video went from 9,000 stores across the country to 1 store in a decade. Movies and video games couldn’t be more relevant, so how did Blockbuster fall so hard and so fast? The answer isn’t Netflix. It’s a failure at digital transformation. Mike…
Developers Should Own the Experience, Not Just Deliver It, with Johnny Boursiquot
Jul 6 • 34 min
We talk to a founding father of Maark, Johnny Boursiquot, to learn about Maark in its early days and why he believes it’s important for developers to own product experience instead of just delivering it.
Everything You Need to Know about Marketing You Can Get from Sports…Unfortunately
Jun 29 • 35 min
The worst sports team is still probably marketing better than you are. Whether it’s escalating narratives, brand management, or content marketing, sports is the best school to learn from. Mike and Jason just wanted to give the XFL that second chance.
The Brand Name Game with Alexandra Watkins
Jun 22 • 41 min
Alexandra Watkins is obsessed with brand naming. From her naming agency Eat My Words to her book, “Hello, My Name is Awesome,” she believes in the commercial power of a great name and the horror of a bad. We talk about her process, how to make such a…
What is the American Narrative Today?
Jun 15 • 39 min
The U.S. is in tumult, and “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” doesn’t seem to ring true or satisfy as a story anymore for many. In the marketing world, companies without compelling stories (or leaders who can tell compelling stories) usually…
Empathy for the Devil: Is Empathy a Fraudulent Concept?
May 25 • 45 min
We hear a lot about empathy in design, empathy on the socials, and it seems to be considered a universal good. But is empathy that great? Does it actually lead to subpar work or, worse, bias and prejudice instead of protecting against that? Mike and Jason…
At Least Your Chatbot is Cute, I Guess
May 15 • 35 min
Almost every website has a chatbot these days. But are they useful? Do they drive engagement? Are they just gimmicky? Are they being misused? Are they powerful enough? Do they add a layer of annoyance to the experience? So many questions. Wish there was…
COVID Killed the Video Star: When Entertainers and Media Personalities Go Lo-Fi
May 8 • 36 min
With everyone in quarantine, entertainers and media personalities who usually rely on highly produced video content to create their experiences have been forced into creating low-fi experiences that any schlub could create…and it’s made culture a lot more…
Lego is Digitally Transforming Way Better Than You
May 1 • 46 min
We’re far beyond the point where it’s okay to have a vague idea of what digital transformation is or treating it like a set of bolt-on digital capabilities. It’s transformation. Changing into something completely unlike what you are now and focusing on…
Twitter as One of the Worst Side-Effects of COVID-19
Apr 23 • 46 min
Our new state of emergency illustrates exactly why Twitter taken seriously is bad for society. It’s full of misinformation and low-word-count opinions passed around at the speed of RTs, it taints and replaces legitimate journalism, and it tempts…
Carrying on Through the Coronavirus
Apr 16 • 40 min
We check in from our respective fortresses of solitude for some possibly too-candid thoughts about living and working through this pandemic, where health concerns are scary, the economy is scary, but the unknowns are probably the most mentally trying.…
Is a Marketer Who Can’t Write a Story Really a Marketer?
Mar 12 • 38 min
The core craft of marketing is storytelling. And the way you figure out a story, and the way to practice that craft, is through writing. Is that arguable? We argue it in this episode. Mike and Jason just want to make storytelling cool again.
Coronavirus Chaos: Working Through a Business-Relevant Virus
Mar 6 • 35 min
Conferences are being cancelled, nonessential travel is being curtailed, stocks are diving, industries are being hit—the coronavirus is really doing a number on the business world. In this episode, we discuss its impact and how Maark is dealing with it.…
GoDaddy Grows Up with Rebrand…Sort of
Mar 2 • 43 min
We break down the new GoDaddy rebrand from a storytelling and authenticity point of view (so no designers were hurt in the making of this podcast), which tries to shift its narrative away from boobs and more to hearts. But something doesn’t add up. Jason…
Don’t Build Software Unless You’re Serious
Feb 13 • 37 min
The Iowa Caucus voting app debacle is the latest in a string of high-profile software failures that illustrate that there is still a widespread, fundamental misunderstanding of how software is built, how hard it is to build, what its risks are, and how to…
Offshoring Digital Experience is Impossible
Feb 6 • 45 min
Part two in our quest for quality software experiences finds us discussing whether or not the old “build vs. run” model applies in a world bent on constant innovation. We learn from Boeing’s experience that cheap software has consequences. Mike and Jason…
Front-End Engineers Make or Break Every Product
Jan 30 • 34 min
Good design has mostly been commoditized. And that’s because great design is super-hard to execute on. And that falls on the front-end engineers, who are, in the end, responsible for the ultimate quality of an experience and whether it will be used or…
Trust No One: Technology and Capitalism in 2020
Jan 23 • 42 min
The results of the latest Edelman Trust Barometer indicate that people think capitalism is harming us and technology is out of control. Probably rightly. As a business in the U.S. that focuses on tech, we have some ill-formed thoughts on this. Mike and…
Is Personalization Worth Being Creepy and Annoying?
Jan 16 • 52 min
Over the past year or so, we’ve seen the industry shift from modernizing their web stacks to pulling value out of those stack, and first on the list seems to be personalization. Yup. It’s time for that topic. Mike and Jason just want to stop being chased…
Martin Scorsese vs. Marvel: The Tension Between Creative and Commerce
Nov 14, 2019 • 48 min
Movies are a fusion of art, commerce, and technology, which is the tagline of our show, so we decided to break down Martin Scorsese’s comments about what is and what isn’t art in the commerce-fueled craft of movie-making. Mike and Jason just want to turn…
What Makes a Marketing Leader?
Nov 7, 2019 • 43 min
What does it take to be a marketing leader? Executing on the CEO’s priorities? Embracing your own vision for the company’s story? Should there be friction between the CMO and the CEO? Is marketing about standing out internally as much as it is standing…
Betcha a Million Dollars You Use “Innovative” in Your Marketing
Oct 30, 2019 • 41 min
You can’t market technology without the word “innovation.” And, yet, few organizations actually want it, fewer organizations still care to invest in it, and, quite possibly, it means nothing. So why is the word so important? Mike and Jason just want to…
100-Watt Fixes as 1000-Watt Wins: The Constant Redefining of Failure and Success for Projects
Oct 18, 2019 • 55 min
Failure is a slippery word in the industry. Few admit it. Expectations are lowered until it’s irrelevant. Project outcomes are spun. Goal posts are moved. So what is failure? Even more important, what is success, both objectively for a project and…
Making Decisions at the Exhausting Pace of Digital (Lookin’ at You, Slack).
Sep 29, 2019 • 47 min
Decision fatigue has always been an issue in business, but now it’s an exponentially worse threat thanks to instant communication channels like Slack. Every one of those red dots is someone asking you a question…that you need answer instantly or break the…
But Who Will Deliver the Creative?: A Response to Forrester’s Idea of Moving Budget from Technology to Creative
Sep 16, 2019 • 53 min
Forrester recently showed that brands are achieving no differentiation in the market due to the homogeneity of everyone’s digital experiences, and suggested that to combat the trend, 20% of technology budgets should be sent to creative. This sounds good…
Upending the In-House vs. Outsource Marketing Debate
Aug 30, 2019 • 45 min
It’s a classic debate in the marketing world: When do you build the team to tackle all the various elements of marketing and when do you outsource? Today, that debate is much more complicated thanks to how technology is rebuilding marketing’s role in the…
Stranger [Marketing] Things
Aug 21, 2019 • 55 min
The marketing around (and inside of) Stranger Things Season 3 was wild and brazen and so far unabated and could be a portent for the future of marketing. But we mostly discussed what we liked/didn’t like about Season 3. Mike and Jason still can’t get the…
CMOs Are Disappearing, and Yours Might Be Next
Aug 2, 2019 • 55 min
McDonald’s just dropped its CMO. So did Coke. And Unilver and Uber and Johnson & Johnson and Lyft and Hyatt Hotels. In fact a good 30% of Fortune 500s don’t have CMOs anymore, and that percentage is growing. We discuss the reasons why this could be, and…
Brainstorming is an Act of Desperation
Jul 8, 2019 • 40 min
Turns out, brainstorming is the worst thing you can do for ideation, and that includes any form of group ideating (e.g., “brainwriting”). Ideas comes from individual sweat and focus: Doing the hard research and thinking up the idea until the veins in your…
Not Another Design vs. Content Conversation
Jun 28, 2019 • 38 min
What do you need to start designing a digital experience? The content? How much of it? An outline? Full text? Can it be placeholder? Or should design dictate content? The amount of it? The flow? Can’t design make general containers to fill with content…
Look Out, Digital World, the Kids Are Low-Fi
Jun 17, 2019 • 48 min
With digital, the focus has always been on creating elegant experiences, and the socials often reward the most polished presentations of our lives. But a new generation is growing up that sees that level of sophistication as corporate and inauthentic and…
Building a Tiger Team for Digital Transformation
Jun 4, 2019 • 52 min
The science is settled. Small teams do innovative work. Big teams barely reach status quo at best. Even with big projects like digital transformation, it takes a small, focused team of experts to pull off meaningful change. In this episode, we discuss…
Don’t Be A Jerk: How Do You Say ‘no’ Without Losing Your Soul?
Apr 26, 2019 • 46 min
Managing growth means saying ‘no’ more often. But how do you turn people down without becoming one of those agencies no one wants to be around? Mike and Jason just want you to know it’s not you, it’s them, and they’d still like to be friends.
Is Writing a Commodity?
Apr 8, 2019 • 55 min
We posted our first writing job recently and were overwhelmed with >1,000 responses (compared to only a fraction of that number for our frequent designer and engineer posts). Does that mean writing is a commodity? Is this why freelancers are starving,…
The Cost Never Goes Down: On Content Subscriptions and Software Licensing
Mar 28, 2019 • 48 min
This week we had an Apple event launching the company into the services biz and Adobe Summit, the company known for its super-expensive enterprise software. One still doesn’t quite totally make sense as a biz model, the other makes so much sense it’s…
Is the Internet an “Out-of-Control Monster”?
Mar 16, 2019 • 63 min
A “completely out-of-control monster.” That’s what Francois Fluckiger—successor at CERN to the inventor of the internet, Tim Berners-Lee—called the internet on its recent 30-year anniversary. He called it that due to privacy threats, fake news, and online…
Maark is Now a Wolf: The Story of a Rebrand
Mar 11, 2019 • 55 min
After years of helping other companies rebrand, Maark has gone through the difficult process of rebranding ourselves. We discuss why we did it, what we learned from it, what was different between rebranding a client and rebranding ourselves, and…
Observations from Digital Design Days in Geneva
Mar 1, 2019 • 60 min
Your intrepid podcast hosts, along with Maark Creative Director Alex Carr, return from the Land of Switzers after attending Digital Design Days. They discuss their impressions and conclusions on the conference, the presenters, and the work they saw. Mike…
An Interview with Anders Brownworth, Part II: How to Be Among the First Civilians in Space
Feb 20, 2019 • 28 min
In the second episode of a two-part interview with Anders Brownworth, we learn that his personal life is as intriguing as his professional life in cryptocurrency. Brownworth is actively training for the goal of being one of the first civilians in space.…
An Interview with Anders Brownworth, Part I: A Practical Guide to Blockchain and Cryptocurrency
Feb 13, 2019 • 48 min
In the first episode of a two-parter, we interview Anders Brownworth, an expert on the mysterious, controversial, and transformational technologies of blockchain and cryptocurrency. Brownworth has taught the technologies at MIT and has built foundational…
Ramblings about Resourcing: Deploying the SWAT Team and Getting Everyone out Alive
Feb 4, 2019 • 47 min
A frank discussion on how Maark balances a large, complex workload, generous PTO, and company growth, all while being a small, nimble agency that gets things done. Mike and Jason just want those four-day work weeks that are all the rage.
When Mob Mentality Becomes Mentality in Media
Jan 28, 2019 • 58 min
The Covington Catholic High School story reveals how bad Twitter is for journalism. And when journalism is harmed, everybody suffers. Mike and Jason just want to stop doing episodes about Twitter’s negative effects on society.
Cordcutters and Streamers: What the Rising Trend of Ditching Cable Means for Media and Marketers
Jan 8, 2019 • 53 min
Cable TV still is the dominant way most people get their media, but statistics show a large trend of both people leaving cable for streaming services and entire generations not even knowing what cable is in the first place. What does this mean for media…
See You Later, 2018: Reflecting on a Year of Growth for an Agency and a Podcast
Dec 21, 2018 • 63 min
We look back at the past year at Maark and the past year of Agency on Record and what’s on the horizon for both in 2019. Mike and Jason just want to eggnog their way through the next two weeks.
Pursuing Passion Projects After-Hours: A Conversation with Mark Van Der Hyde
Nov 27, 2018 • 46 min
We talk to senior producer and longest-running Maark employee Mark Van Der Hyde about balancing work projects and personal projects. Mike and Jason just want to surround themselves with people who do interesting things.
Writers Should be Strategic to the Business: A Conversation with Christopher Link
Nov 13, 2018 • 67 min
We welcome Christopher Link, the head of content at John Hancock Investments, to discuss how he built a team of writers into a formidably strategic asset for the company, one that does everything from protecting the brand story to making digital…
Firing a Client without Burning a Bridge
Nov 6, 2018 • 41 min
Sometimes it happens. Agencies have to fire clients. It hurts financially. It makes us sad. It goes against everything that makes us a service company. But it can protect the agency—its goals, its employees, its quality of work, and its culture. Mike and…
Deep in the Nuance of Digital Delivery: How Do You Manage Digital Projects?
Oct 31, 2018 • 43 min
How do you manage a tech project? Mike invites senior producer, Simone Ovsey, to the AoR podcast to talk about managing projects at Maark, and how to be successful when you are tasked with all the complexities of digital delivery. We talk about the…
Your Story Is as Important as Your Logo…But Who Owns It?
Oct 23, 2018 • 52 min
We’ve talked a lot about narrative in the past, but never about who owns the story in a marketing organization. In this episode we explore the true role of both your story and your storyteller, and what you can do to build a content marketing machine.…
We Just Need a Website: The Crazy, Complex, and Highly Variable World of the Corporate Dot Com
Oct 9, 2018 • 45 min
For a while there, it looked like corporate websites were becoming less relevant, but today they’re the hub of all digital activities, complete with a complex, multi-system back-end, highly competitive customer experiences, and a need for a clear strategy…
The Ultimate Digital Experience: Video Games Could Change Every Industry…Even Yours.
Oct 2, 2018 • 52 min
We welcome Mike Dowd to the conversation to talk video games, their massive market share, and how it has the potential to be as life-altering as the internet is…for both people and industries.. Mike and Jason just want Gears of War games to come out more…
Beware Collaboration: When Working Together Works Against Your Project
Sep 25, 2018 • 47 min
Collaboration has become a feel-good word and a general goal in corporate culture, but the truth is, collaboration (as corporately defined) is the worst way to get anything good done. Plus, you’re probably not really collaborating anyway. Mike and Jason…
Strategy is a Prototype, not a PowerPoint
Sep 18, 2018 • 63 min
If your management consultant can’t build a world-class digital experience, you shouldn’t be listening to them. No matter how much data they have. Jason and Mike just want to sell a six-month PowerPoint project for $300,000.
Strange Receptions: The Kaepernick-Nike Marketing Partnership
Sep 11, 2018 • 57 min
From burning socks on one side of the political spectrum to celebrating the morality of a multinational corporation on the other, the reception to Nike’s Colin Kaepernick campaign has been weird, with both sides seemingly missing the real implications of…
String and Tin Cans or a Swiss Army Knife: What Apps Really Changed Our View of Smartphones?
Aug 28, 2018 • 64 min
In this episode we dig through our phones mining for meaning in a sea of meaningless apps. Has the mobile app revolution really changed the way we live, or just the way we chat? Mike and Jason just want to figure out if Google’s really stealing Jason’s…
Did Alex Jones Just Become a Martyr? Society Needs to Determine the Purpose of the Socials…Fast
Aug 21, 2018 • 66 min
The recent de-platforming of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones by just about every social media from YouTube to Facebook to Pinterest (???) puts us all at an awkward crossroads. Is social media merely the private domain of private companies or has it evolved…
Music as the Ultimate Collision of Creativity and Technology
Aug 13, 2018 • 56 min
Your quasi-intrepid hosts have lived through MTV, cassettes, Walkmans, CDs, Napster, iPods, Zunes (Google them), streaming, and the resurrection of vinyl. How are we supposed to listen to music these days and has that relationship changed as the…
What’s Agile about Agile? Prying Pragmatic Concepts From the Dogma of a Software World Gone Mad.
Aug 7, 2018 • 51 min
In this episode Mike takes a turn in the captain’s chair, forgets to introduce himself, and all but reaches for the parachute. Fortunately, Rich Wagner joined the show to share some insights on how Agile works (and sometimes doesn’t work) in a services…
A Story in 5 Acts: The New Ancient Approach to Business Stories
Jul 31, 2018 • 58 min
Freytag built a pyramid so that you can tell better stories. In this episode we break down Maark’s storytelling methodology and what it means to put your customers on a hero’s journey. Mike and Jason just want to watch a dragon battle in the boardroom.
What Ruined Content on the Internet? Not What You Think. But, Also, Exactly What You Think.
Jul 24, 2018 • 51 min
We’ve had thousands of years of practice at making good content. Why did we chuck it all out the window for the Internet? Mike and Jason just want an RSS feed full of blog posts on their Google Reader page.
All the Skills Between the Skills: What would an IT Renaissance look like?
Jul 17, 2018 • 43 min
The demand for more sophisticated digital experience is coming at IT like a comet. Dodging it means embracing a new managerial role over enterprise technology, while standing in its path requires a leveling up of IT skills in order to take an…
MBA and Marketing Degrees are Overrated: Our Enlightenment via the St. John’s Great Books Program
Jul 10, 2018 • 56 min
We come (mostly) clean about our past to discuss our education in the classics from the Great Books program of St. John’s College of Annapolis and how we think that equips us to be better agency executives than if we’d gone conventional business education…
Skill Silos as Vision Killers: What Does it Take to Achieve Design Vision?
Jul 3, 2018 • 51 min
We welcome Maark Creative Director Alex Carr to talk about why digital product designers should have the strongest opinion on the team, the prevalence of dumb UX paradigms, and where strategy and design really meet. Mike and Jason just want designers to…
Big Agency as the new Big Tobacco: Is the Future 100% Freelance?
Jun 26, 2018 • 42 min
The agency world has been in upheaval for a while, so much so that companies are looking for any way around the Big Guys that they can find, no matter how off the wall the replacement. In this episode we look at a Forbes article and an Accenture report…
Adventures in Virtual Office-ing
Jun 19, 2018 • 46 min
Maark went from a posh office on Boston’s State Street to a completely virtual office spread across the world and everywhere in between (including a few months in a rock climbing gym). In this episode, we discuss our firsthand experiences trying to…
Bitchin’ About Pitchin’, aka, You’re Buying People
Jun 12, 2018 • 46 min
We welcome Maark colleague Michael Dowd back to the podcast to discuss our experiences pitching work to potential clients, while turning the tables and scoring clients on how they judge pitches. Clue: It shouldn’t be merely on skill sets and case studies.…
What the Hell’s a Maark?: The Unlikely Path of the Agency Behind AOR
Jun 5, 2018 • 42 min
Our eleventh episode centers on Maark, the agency behind AOR; where it came from, and its role as an unlikely veteran in a field that may not exist. More like Quantum Leap than AOR, Mike and Jason just want this episode to put right the wrongs of practice…
The UX Engineer as Unicorn: Why App Development is Even More Complicated Than You Thought
May 29, 2018 • 50 min
AOR welcomes Alex Carr, creative director at Maark and the one in charge of user experience (UX) engineering at the company, to discuss how UX engineering takes as much art as engineering, the myth of the full-stack developer, and why there’s no such…
I, Robot. You, Hair Salon.
May 22, 2018 • 54 min
We still don’t know if Google faked its Duplex demo, but the idea of it still made us break out our brand new recording equipment so that we could wonder out loud and on mic about the ethics of A.I. in life and marketing. Resident Maark futurist Michael…
B2B vs. B2C Marketing: No One Survives
May 15, 2018 • 43 min
Comparisons between B2B and B2C marketing usually focus on the complexity of B2B solutions and sales. However, the real difference might be (unfortunately) that B2B knows less about its market than B2C. Mike and Jason just want that Star Wars Company to…
The Messy Secret Behind Taglines and Product Names
May 8, 2018 • 53 min
Why naming B2B products is often a fool’s errand, why the path to a great tagline is through five pages of narrative, and why you should consult a French dictionary before doing anything. Mike and Jason named this podcast in 15 minutes.
Ads are Anachronisms: Focus on Your Digital Brand
May 1, 2018 • 40 min
Too often, a company’s brand is tragically bifurcated into digital experience and advertising. And Marketing always focuses on the least effective one. Your digital brand is the one your customers actually use, and if it’s bad, no ad creative will ever…
Is Social Media a Pet Rock or a Dinosaur Killer?
Apr 24, 2018 • 72 min
It was supposed to be a discussion about social media in a marketing context, except that it wended down dark tunnels of existential foreboding as they try to ascertain if social media is a breakthough or a breakdown. Mike and Jason just want their lives…
Mixed Up About the Mixed Bag that is Mixed Reality
Apr 17, 2018 • 50 min
Maark executive Michael Dowd joins the podcast to discuss the strange, disappointing, and exciting realities around the current state of virtual and augmented reality. Mike and Jason just want a holodeck.
Data Privacy: Secrets Never Stay Secret
Apr 10, 2018 • 52 min
Thanks to Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, data privacy is in every other headline. Between that and the looming GDPR, are we at the edge of a new era of user-controlled data or just experiencing one more bump in the gradual numbing of our attitudes…
Marketers vs. Storytellers: Story as Your Fundamental Weapon
Apr 3, 2018 • 59 min
Why is disciplined storytelling in a marketing organization such a unicorn, and how is storytelling evolving in a digital world? Mike and Jason just want ghost tales around a campfire.
Boutiques vs. the Big Guys for Digital Transformation
Mar 28, 2018 • 54 min
Digital transformation is such a massive initiative that there’s no way it can be entrusted to a boutique agency, right? On the other hand, if the agency is so big it’s in need of digital transformation itself, how is it going to be agile enough to make…