Could your marketing message work harder?

That’s what this blog is all about. What makes marketing messages work a little, work a lot, or not work at all? I’ve stressed over it, studied it and experimented with it since my early years as an ad agency copywriter in the 1980s.

Barrett Rossie, Strategic Messages + Content Development

I was extraordinarily lucky to work for and with some of advertising’s greatest: Dan Wieden and David Kennedy, Mike Hughes and Harry Jacobs, Hal Riney and Jerry Andelin, Chick McKinney and Michael Winslow. What I learned helped me develop processes for brand analysis and message development. Refined over the course of 20 years, they help clients understand their brand’s situation, their customers’ motivations and their own opportunities. From understanding comes insight. From insight come strong ideas for strategies and messages.

I find it amazing that today’s influential marketing books, like Teressa Iezzi’s excellent The Idea Writers, give writers and marketers the same advice that my mentors gave long before the digital age:

… perhaps one of the essential messages to take away from this book is that your job isn’t to create “an ad.” It’s to create something useful, entertaining or beautiful (or all of the above) on behalf of a brand.

– Teressa Iezzi, The Idea Writers

30 years ago Harry Jacobs said, “Say something important, and say it in an interesting way.”  25 years ago David Kennedy said, “We’re really not in the business of making ads. Our job is to make a connection.”

So while the media landscape and the public’s media habits change almost daily, some things hold constant: If your message doesn’t connects with the customer, and support your business objectives, it’s hard to make marketing work.

I’ve helped develop marketing campaigns for consumer, B2B and technology clients. These include famous brands such as Nike, See’s Candies, Chevron, Pacific Bell and Piedmont Airlines, as well as many small clients and start-ups. One constant: Systematic discovery and analysis always give you an advantage. It shows up in websites, social media, advertising, email, applications, trade shows, and in the way a product is packaged or designed. Discovery and analysis, when coupled with insightful creativity, are key to your success.

See how this approach influenced the work in my portfolio pages.




MARKETING DIRECTOR, The Washington Network, Inc., Alexandria VA

Responsibilities: Stem catastrophic client defections. Develop new leads.

Work included:

Developed new website with content management system; SEO including local listings; email campaigns targeted to existing customers as well as prospects; new social media program including Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter and blogging; speaking campaign for company president; consistent release of press releases


PARTNER, Rossie/Davis Advertising, San Francisco
(dba Clarity05 Partners and Square 1 Strategy Building)

Responsibilities: Create communication strategies for clients; develop creative concepts; present and sell work to client marketing directors, executive committees and boards; manage web development; write copy; develop new business; keep agency books

Clients included:

Chevron Lummus Global: Developed and wrote ad campaign that increased inquiries from international markets; helped lead to large new accounts in Asia, the Middle East and Europe

Kabira Technologies: Developed communication strategy; created ads, websites and direct mail; collaborated on complete rebranding; helped sales rise above $24 million from under $100,000 per year; campaign generated more than 25,000 sales leads; client landed major contracts including VISA, AT&T, Lucent, EDS, Alcatel and US Dept. of Defense

Syntex Management Systems: Developed strategic messages; created framework for ongoing strategic messaging; managed development of new web site; web traffic rose 463% in first quarter after launch; qualified email inquiries rose from 2 to 63 per month

WorldTelemetry Inc: Facilitated significant corporate repositioning; managed development of new website to communicate new position; site became the company’s most powerful sales tool; company now sells to C-level executives rather than convenience store managers

–  See’s Candies: Campaigns contributed to steady sales growth for seven years; developed print and radio concepts, wrote scripts, directed actors and production engineers in studio; client sought my services after I left previous employer

Burton-Ching Ltd: Established ultra-high-end brand for new furniture maker; achieved nationwide distribution and extremely high awareness within its first 18 months; increased showroom distributors from one to 15; created ad campaign, brochure, direct mail

Staffing Industry Analysts Inc: Helped client transition from print to online publishing model; creative directed new publishing website, brand identity package and new modular design system that allowed client to create its own ads and collateral in a timely manner; as a result, key SIA conferences broke attendance records by 30%

Bowen Research: Developed communication strategy for small research firm; results included significant new business inquiries and top 5 Google ranking on unpaid keyword searches


SENIOR COPYWRITER, Hal Riney & Partners, San Francisco
Responsibilities: Translate business objectives into communication strategy, develop advertising concepts, present and sell to clients, write copy, collaborate on production

Clients included:

See’s Candies: Helped maintain $5 million account; generated campaigns that lasted multiple cycles; client sought out my services after I left the agency

Stroh’s Brewery:  For aging brand, helped develop campaigns that appealed to younger, hipper audience


COPYWRITER, Foote Cone & Belding, San Francisco
Responsibilities: Create concepts, write copy for ads and collateral

Clients included:

Holland America Cruise Lines: Responsible for creative development of retail print campaign; work helped client emerge as a segment leader and led to strategic acquisition by Carnival

Pacific Bell Centrex: Developed advertising that helped delay the demise of aging tech product with many competitive disadvantages


COPYWRITER, Wieden & Kennedy, Portland OR
Responsibilities: Develop creative strategies; create advertising concepts for print, broadcast and collateral; present and sell work to clients; write copy; assist in broadcast production

Clients included:

Nike: Created first Nike ads featuring Charles Barkley, Andre Agassi and Bo Jackson; created co-op campaigns for major accounts such as Macy’s

KINK-FM: Created slogan and award-winning ad campaign that lasted 15 years, solidified brand and drove KINK to #1 ratings in the Portland OR market

Speedo Swimwear and White Stag Sportswear: Created advertising and collateral that resurrected brands and led to profitable sale of company


Developing strategic messages including positioning, value proposition, brand messages, key strategic product messages and tactical messaging

Managing projects including web development, ad campaigns, direct mail and collateral

Qualitative research including interviewing clients’ staff and customers

Copywriting including print, broadcast and interactive; received The One Show Gold Pencil and other copywriting awards; work featured in Communication Arts Advertising Annual

Planning communications campaigns including web sites, advertising, direct mail, collateral

Managing vendors such interactive developers, designers, suppliers, media sales

Ability to create and deliver technical messages in everyday language for non-technical audiences in a variety of media

Ability to meet strict deadlines through quick learning and prioritization



Bachelor of Arts, University of Virginia, 1979

Barrett Rossie’s portfolio samples



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