Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Buck The Norman Music Fest

So it's no secret we love the Buck The Norm program we developed with TFCU. You know, the one that reaches out to a younger generation of potential credit union members with a message of financial empowerment? But after the awards and the parades and the video contest and all the hoopla of the initial launch, the gang at Tinker Federal Credit Union are stickin' with it and still taking it to the streets.


The Norman Music Festival is where the TFCU mobile camped out this weekend. The ATM mobile is fully wrapped with TFCU brand messaging, and can be found on any given weekend at various events around the metro. For this live music, college town crowd they slapped Buck The Norm logos all over that thing. It works in a pinch. Actually, it looks sort of irreverant and spontaneous which is in keeping with the Buck The Norm concept. Could there possibly be a Buck The Norm-themed wrapped vehicle in the future? Maybe. But if not, they'll keep making the most of what they've got in true credit union spirit.


They actually did a really fantastic job creating a little oasis from the heat, creating a funky patio vibe with colored paper lanterns, cool lawn chairs and a mod shag rug.


Some of our Third Degree team stopped by to lounge a little – and to point out their personal cameos in the Buck The Norm video that was running throughout the day.


But the ones who were hard at work were the team from TFCU. Last year they were serving shrimp kabobs at the Arts Fest, but this week, with their aluminum "buck its" in hand, they passed out bracelets embossed with the Buck The Norm url to the crowd of nearly 25,000 attendees.

The business development reps at TFCU are a great example of how to commit to the life and success of a social media-driven Gen Y initiative like Buck The Norm. The outreach must be ongoing, and it must happen at all levels, so whether it's weekly online correspondence or out-in-the-crowd face time, it takes real people to make it happen.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Arts Festival Outing

The Arts Festival is held right in the heart of downtown OKC and is only walking distance from Third Degree, which is nice. It's just one more reason I really love working right in the middle of everything, even if our warehouse loft-style agency space has no air conditioning this week (but more on the hotness later.)

So anyway, this week is Arts Festival time (properly named "Festival Of The Arts"). Kind of the same thing, huh? Ahhh, marketing.


Speaking of marketing, I invited Nancy, marketing director at TFCU to come with me. I sent her an email that said:


Wanna' go to the Arts Festival with me and walk around and do lunch?
If I had little check-boxes in this email, which Hallie would know how to do HTML code for, but I do not, they would say:

1. [ box ] you are pretty, and yes


2. [ box ] you are stinky, and no



This is the email attachment she promptly sent back. I love how she actually crumpled up the paper before she scanned it. Way to work in the texture, Nancy.


First order of business. Getting the food. Check out the long lines. This was the first really warm spring day in Oklahoma City which was almost a record breaker at 94 degrees. Sheesh. Check out Nancy bringing water to my Beef Empanada's and Sweet Potato Fries line (which was like four times as long as her Grilled Chicken and Bacon Sandwhich line.)


Look! Some of Nancy's coworkers. Darius, Barbie and Lauren from TFCU, were working the Shrimp Kabob food tent with their Buck The Norm t-shirts! Yay, grass roots credit union marketing. They know how to do it, that's for sure. Now get me a shrimp kabob, Darius!

That's Darius on the left, who has never met a stranger in his life, and is the most popular credit union business development rep I've ever met. Darius can do anything.. fix an ATM on a mobile trailer, fix a award-winning bowl of chili at a fundraiser, fix a poster frame that's falling off a branch wall, and always, always with a smile fixed on his face. Honestly, Darius could be a whole other post. Heck, Darius could a whole other blog.


Second order of business. Check out some art. In 94 degrees, that means going "oh, that's nice, uh... let's go." I know I'm a creative director, and an artsy type, but, yeah... I can only sweat so much for the cause. Nancy, however, had a nice chat with the artist at this particular booth on the left. She's so nice.


So we found some shade and some Strawberries Newport. I can be nice, too, if I'm eating whip cream, vanilla pudding, pastry and strawberries. Now that's a work of art.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

It's Bizness Time (With Brian)

So this is my Tara's-eye view if I peek around the corner of my computer screen.


Yesterday my inbox was under control, my plant was watered, and our associate creative director, Brian, had just received his copy of OKC Biz where he is featured on their "Day In The Life" page. You can read it online at, too.

(That's not really our intern. That's our designer Brett using the intern computer. He's not chirpy enough to be our intern. He's generally chipper, but not chirpy.)


Okay, so back to Brian. If you look closer from my little spy eye, you can see the remnants of his highly organized, tupperware prioritized daily lunch.


The article follows him from wake up time (5:30 am) to bedtime (12:30 am), and all the things he does in between, from racing against copywriting deadlines to catching up on his Tivo programs. Okay, seriously Brian, I could not survive on the amount of sleep you get. Five hours is like a nice Sunday afternoon nap, not an acceptable evening slumber.


Maybe it's all the sugar substitutes that keeps him going. Or maybe it's just a genuine enthusiasm for a day filled with all things creative.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Proper White Paper Session

A proper white paper session (you know getting all your ideas, questions, strategies, goals, objectives, drawings, doodles, schematics, and crazy ideas that seem totally brilliant when they're scrawled all big and spontaneously up on the white sheet, but then seem maybe a little less realistic when typed out in the notes later) requires the following:


1. white paper


2. a good marker

Preferably different colors for different categories of information – and also handy if one person gets tired of writing and makes someone else write, they can say "you know, I prefer blue," but really it's because the purple marker the other person had been using is all sweaty.


2b. marker side note

Beware this black one... it's the Third Degree "crack marker." All you have to do is pop the cap, and anyone within twenty feet will get high. So, depending on who is in your white paper sessions (creative department or media department, lets say) the crack marker may or may not be welcome. Those crazy media gals.


3. a thought leader.

Someone's got to be the ringmaster. Today it's our all around leader, Roy. See... he does stuff! We even made him write. (With the purple marker, wink, wink.)


4. actual ideas

This may require some help from required item number 5., below


5. A ginormous __[ fill in the blank here ]____ drink

Whatever your poison, be it from Sonic, Starbucks or a gentleman named Jack Daniels. Although his white paper sessions usually result in us having to reschedule a new white paper session.


6. completely focused, energized and engaged participants

What?! That's what we look like when we're completely focused, energized and engaged.


Seriously. If I try to force everyone to look engaged they look like this. Yeah, kind of fake, right? It's when we look all serious and grim when we're really thinking. Plus, Roy get's annoyed because I'm worried more about posing the blog photo than contributing ideas to the white paper session.


So when the hour's up what do you get? A lot of really great ideas, some executable – okay, some not. But it's an exercise we do almost every week for one client or another. Now the designated person (today that's Hallie) just has to go make it all make sense and... make it happen.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Almost Famous Person of The Year

So yesterday I thought I was going to an Ad Club lunch to watch Roy present our popular TFCU Buck The Norm campaign.  And instead, I found out it was all an elaborate scheme.  That I was actually being presented the OKC Ad Club 2009 Advertising Person of the Year award. Whatcha-what? 


This picture is me back at the office afterwards, trying to be humble and humorously anonymous (while still showing off). What's funny is that someone who doesn't have a problem showing off, art director Kathleen, is snapping the pic and simultaneously making model-eyes at the camera, which you can see if you take a second look at the reflection in the plaque.


Anyway, back to me.  That's our CEO and founder, Roy presenting me the award.  Okay, mock presenting me the award.  We had to recreate it on the stage after the luncheon, because everyone was having so much fun at my flabbergasted expense at the "trickery" they played on me.  That, and Roy, who is such a heartfelt and inspiring speaker gave the best speech ever, so everyone was too focused and dramatically hushed to do anything else.  

Afterwards, I had attendees coming up and saying "wow, he doesn't like you at all does he?" (but sarcastically, of course).  Or coming up and saying "I almost cried," or "you sure are lucky to have such a great boss" (not sarcastically those times).  And, yes, I am.


I also have really fantastic coworkers and friends.  Back at the office that afternoon the champagne cork was popped and the embarrassingly nice and funny and poignant comments started flowing.  They were all captured in this neat little flipbook with everyone's pictures and and respective quote about me.  This was one of the funniest remarks (especially since I love this movie scene):

"You know that scene in 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom' where the bad guy has a villager all chained up and he reaches in and pulls out the dude's still-beating heart and holds it in his hand?  That's what Tara does when I need her help.  My random, shapeless concepts are the metaphorical shirtless chest of the hapless villager and Tara's laser-accurate, strategic, creative brain is the metaphorical magic, still-beating-heart-removing hand of the bad guy."

- Brian


The cover of the book is appropriately titled to go with a hardcore comment like that one – but there were also other simply sincere and memorable words from people who don't always have a chance to say them, since I'm usually walking really fast through the office, or scowling at my computer screen, or talking too fast for anyone to get a word in otherwise.

So thank you Karla, Holly, Mickie, Jentry, Kriste, Brian, Kathleen, Liz, Brett, Phillip, Daniel, Lynn, Pam, Caroline, Kande, Felina, Hallie, Amanda, Jamie and Misty.

Roy, I don't mention you again, because it would be ridiculously redundant.  I thank you for Third Degree's existence, which is such a big part of what defines mine.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Meet Liz

So, once in a while I like to take a moment to give you a little peek into the goings on of one of our creative individuals here at Third Degree.  Remember Meet Brian?


Well, meet our designer Liz.  Her demeanor at work is quiet, thoughtful and calm.  

The photo above isn't actually a picture of Liz, but it's a stock photo we use for some of our Third Degree diner materials sometimes, and I always think the girl is a spitting image of Liz in a retro green dress.


This is a real photo of Liz's desk.  So neat and tidy.  The cleanest in the office.


A pleasantly maintained facade, until all our colleagues at Third Degree are invited to the wedding of the year.  Seems like a harmless enough festivity. The toasts are made, the spirits start flowing, the DJ winds up, and holy-freakin-moly!  Liz it seems, is a firecracker.*

*Literally on fire, as she exclaimed to Jeff,  a fire chief by occupation, husband to Mickie our EVP, and known to take an occasional spin on the dance floor, pictured above.   Photos by Simon Hurst.


That bright copper hair atop that cool head on her shoulders should have been a giveaway from the start.  Known to down an Irish Car Bomb quicker than you can say top o' the mornin' to ya (that's the name of a drink I've learned from Hallie, our other resident Irish lass), Liz even wrote and handcrafted this really cleverly made and perfectly designed St. Patrick's day drinking guide and conversation starter to give to all her friends and family.


Liz is a master of the Xacto knife.  Her personal passion is creating handmade books which are really difficult to execute cleanly.  And you've seen her desk, so um, yeah, little threads of hanging-on paper and uneven borders aren't really going to be good enough for one of her little creations.  


If cutting paper is one of her greatest skills, it's matched only by her cutting wit.  Liz has been with Third Degree a couple of years, and one of her most memorable portfolio pieces when interviewing for the job, was this book – a collection of Wu-Tang Clan explicit rap lyrics bound up and annotated as if they were prose from a former century, in the most ironic interpretation of "old school" I've ever seen. 


Oklahoma Blood Institute probably didn't realize that while Liz was practicing her typography with words you wouldn't want to say in front of your mom, she was unknowingly just gearing up to design this Gold Addy award-winning annual report she created for them this past year. Don't stop honing your craft, Liz.  And never stop cutting that rug.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Invitation Invasion

What's a personal perk of working with or being a designer?  Really neat wedding invitations.

Going To The Chapel

You 'd think it was June at Third Degree.  We've had two eventful weddings this past month. The first was Amanda's.  She's a sophisticated, professional gal, and I think her personal style runs kind of earthy-artsy meets conservative-classy.  She had Kathleen design her wedding invitations for her and her now-husband Andy.  Birds and feathers and leaves and scrolls abound in this design, but it still somehow conveys a simple statement.

Lovely Letter

Kathleen was our late March wedding.  It was an unconventional wedding for an unconventional girl.  Of course, she designed her own invitations.  The copy sort of reads like a Wes Anderson-inspired correspondence, with typewriter lettering, clever little cameo silhouettes and signatures of the couple.


Intersting details are what make this invite so homemade and individualized, like a hang tag RSVP, stamped kraft paper envelopes and a strip of photo booth pics of the couple. 


Surprisingly enough, an affinity for designing wedding invitations has not gone to waste for one of our clients, Delta Community Credit Union.  A year or so back they came to us with an idea to promote their CD product like a special invitation to an exclusive offer.  They had us design a direct mail piece that looked, felt and read like a wedding invitation.


We certainly had the art director for the job.  Kathleen executed the concept with all the scrolls and frills (look familiar?), and even included an RSVP card and return envelope.  The cards were printed on white column metallic stock and the envelopes on silver metallic. It was a very unique way to turn a credit union product promotion into a memorable offering that made the recipients feel like they were getting something above and beyond the usual.