Midas Awards Grand Jury Spotlight: Mark Lantz

The Midas Awards assembles the best and the brightest of agency and brand leaders who have worked in the field of financial advertising, as well as international experts in financial policy and communications to be part of the Midas Grand Jury.

These award-winniing industry professionals are recruited to view global entries into the Midas Awards and select the World’s Best Financial Advertising. The results of the judging sessions are parsed into the annual Midas Report which includes Agency, Brand and Network Rankings—a veritable who’s-who in the world of financial services.

This week’s Grand Jury Spotlight interview features Mark Lantz, Founder, Executive Creative Director, Factory Detroit Inc., USA

Mark brings 20 years of working for some of the largest national and global ad agencies to the judges table.  In 2013, Mark made a major career change and founded done of the country’s smallest boutique advertising agencies. Factory Detroit is now a nine-person creative agency focused on branding, advertising and design, with offices in Royal Oak, Michigan. In the four years Factory’s doors have been open, the agency has worked with such clients as First Citizens Bank, TextbookRush, IronPlanet, mParks, Genesee County Parks, the Detroit Regional Chamber and Detroit Public Television. At Factory, Mark oversees everything related to the work. And does more than a little of the writing.

Prior to opening Factory Detroit, Mark served as Chief Strategy Officer at McCann Erickson in Detroit. He became best known as one of the creators of the groundbreaking Pure Michigan brand and campaign. In his role at McCann he provided the strategic guidance for the campaign at its inception and through its first three years and he came up with that brand line, Pure Michigan, which is now seen on welcome signs, milk bottles, produce crates and license plates all around the Great Lakes State. During his tenure at McCann he also led all things strategy on Colonial Williamsburg, Children’s Hospital of Michigan, Detroit Medical Center, General Motors, ALDI Food Stores and more.

Midas caught up with Mark and asked him to weigh in on how judging influences the creative process,  What he’s looking for in an award-winning campaign,  the challenges and benefits to judging global work and much more!

Midas Awards: Does judging the year’s creative work within your industry influence your creative process?

Mark Lantz: Looking at a broad range of work from around the world is an end in itself: It’s an opportunity to see the many, many ways talented people wrestle with the same communication problems we all have to face in our work: How do we make what are often abstract financial topics pertinent, compelling, understandable, relevant and, most of all, human? How do creative people — and we use that term broadly to include everyone involved with developing the strategy, concepting the ideas and producing the final work — find creative ways to build connections between large financial institutions and the real people who have to make decisions, every day, about how to live their financial life . . . and what that means for their life.  Looking at this range of work is a little bit therapy and a little bit inspiration.

Midas Awards: Why did you agree to participate on the Midas Awards Grand Jury?

Mark Lantz: If you make your living in an industry that thrives when creative standards are higher, you have a duty to help keep those standards high. We all benefit when the people who buy creative work for the financial industry have more better work to choose from.

Midas Awards: Can you comment on the international reach and scope of the competition? Do you believe it’s important for there to be a competition specifically honoring advertising and marketing for banking, brokerage, insurance, mutual funds, credit cards, real estate, accounting, and consulting industries?

Mark Lantz: As with any vertical business category (such as health care or technology), financial services (broadly defined) has unique degrees of difficulty.  Of course, the best work in the financial sector has to be able to stand up against the best work in any sector . . . but the truth remains there’s a big difference between crafting messages for a mainstream beer brand (for instance) and crafting them for a financial services company where the product offerings can be complicated to understand, hard to explain and — to be honest — not something people always like thinking about, talking about or hearing about.  So, having a venue for celebrating achievement within this industry is a way of looking at the creative work fairly . . . and setting an ever-higher bar for achievement.

On the international side of things, the value of the Midas Awards is encouraging marketers and creative companies around the world to reach for that higher bar. And, more importantly, to recognize that there's a common humanity underlying how people think about their finances.  While the particulars of product offerings and local economies of course change from geography to geography, the human impulse of seeking and securing a better life — which is so often at the root of all financial services — is something that can be found anywhere you look.  It’s a good reminder for the industry.

Midas Awards: When judging, what specifically are you looking for when determining whether a campaign is award-winning?

Mark Lantz: Three things:  Humanity. Creativity. And a sense of a point-of-view about the way the brand being communicated sees the world, its audience, money, life.

Midas Awards: What are the challenges and benefits to judging work from around the globe?

Mark Lantz: When judging work from around the world, you see the end of the process . . . but don’t always have knowledge about the everything that led up to it.  Although that may be true for any creative jury — just like it’s true for the audiences of all this communication — sooner or later the work has to speak for itself.

Midas Awards: In your opinion what are the challenges of working in financial advertising?

Mark Lantz: The biggest challenge of working in financial advertising is always remembering this truth: Money is never just about money; it’s about life. It’s easy to get caught up in the particulars of companies and products and services and forget that all of that exists to help people — as individuals, parents, grandparents, business owners, community members, citizens — pursue the idea of life that fits their needs, their values and their hopes.

Midas Awards: What will be the most prominent changes in financial advertising in the next few years?

Mark Lantz: There’s a lot of consolidation going on, at least in the banking industry.  And there’s a lot of technological change sweeping through all industries. The question becomes when there are fewer, bigger banks and they have almost identical product offerings (driving by that technology) are there meaningful differences that allow us to shine a light on the brands were crafting stories about.  

Midas Awards: What is your favorite financial advertising campaign and why?

Mark Lantz: It’s one of the classics:  The MasterCard Priceless campaign.  Now, I worked at McCann Erickson (not on MasterCard) for seven years and had more than my fill of MasterCard case studies to sit through . . . but the truth remains it’s one of the great, great financial campaigns of all time, both in its impact on the MasterCard brand and bottom line and the exceptional creative work the folks at McCann New York did on it, particularly in the earliest years when it felt so human, fresh and refreshing.  It ennobled the brand and spoke to hearts.  And it entered the public consciousness in a way few campaigns do.

Midas Awards: What inspires you about the industry and what do you wish you could change?

Mark Lantz: In all honesty, what inspires me most about the industry is the client we work with: First Citizens Bank.  I’ve spent considerable time with the people of the bank — from headquarters, from their regions, from their branches — and with their customers. They run a really good bank and try very hard to help their customers. And they have a lot of experience and expertise in the small business area . . . which is, for me, anyway, the heart of the human side of business, because those are just families working hard to better their lives, to pass something on to the next generation, to be productive members of the community and to be good neighbors to those around them.  Banking is really, really important for those people — as an ad agency owner, I’m one of them, so I guess I’m biased — so understanding how to connect with them is both a challenge and, in its way, a privilege. 

What I wish I could change is all the advertising I see from banks congratulating themselves on the financial wellbeing of their customers.  As if. 

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