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January 29, 2010

Face it. There is a lot of bad creative out there, especially at the local advertising level. The way to change that, and to grab a lot of business for yourself is, as multinational corporations say, “Think global. Act local.” How do you do that? Think syndication.

Cartoonists do it. There are features syndicates for newspaper columnists, whose writings appear in dozens and sometimes hundreds of newspapers. So why not advertising? Back years ago, when I was working as head of business development for a mid-sized advertising agency with great creative, we had gotten as a client a small Connecticut bank. We did a great campaign for them, and they grew rapidly in size, becoming a local power within three years. But nobody outside central Connecticut had ever seen the campaign, so I proposed to my boss that we syndicate the campaign. Moreover, I did some research and found a dozen comparable banks separated by enough geography that potential clients would not feel that they were competing with their own advertising dollars. I put together a detailed proposal and was laughed out of the room by my boss, the president of the agency.

Nevertheless, syndication is still a great idea, especially if you deliver great creative to local clients. I know a freelance creative director who recently did a outstanding campaign for a local men’s wear store. On many levels, it was too good for the room. It deserved a wider audience such as a national campaign by Men’s Wearhouse. In lieu of that, I would suggest that my creative acquaintance find a couple more tuxedo shops and pitch them the same creative for their own towns. There are literally thousands of men’s wear outlets across the U.S., and I find it difficult to believe that at least a couple dozen wouldn’t be amenable to getting syndicated creative that was better – and less expensive – than hiring a local shop and taking a chance on getting dreck.

What is true for tuxedos is true for beauty salons, electricians, plumbers, tire stores and all the other small retailers who dot the strip malls of America. All of them are in a constant battle with the big box discount retailers, and all of them could use a creative lift. The idea is now out there for any number of you to take up.

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Stephen Kindel is the Chief Operating Officer of The Bronx Project, a startup pharmaceutical company. He has had many jobs, written many books and hired many people over his career. His latest book, Skill Sets, is available by contacting him at

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